This past weekend, I was hanging out with a friend who happens to have young children. His son is just about to turn 6, and his daughter is almost 3. He's really excited to see his kids start snowboarding, as it's an activity both he and his wife love to do, but haven't been able to as often as they'd like recently. As he quizzed me on what age was best for a child to begin snowboarding, it dawned on me: I don't really know. I mean, I know what's recommended by the experts - but as a snowboard instructor, I AM one of those experts, and I don't really have a perfect answer to this question!
The truth is, kids develop (both physically, mentally, and emotionally) at different rates. A blanket age to start snowboarding, be it five, six, or seven, is never going to apply perfectly to every child. I would say age five is probably the youngest you'd realistically want to start your child out on a snowboard, as snowboarding requires greater development of the core muscles of the body when compared to skiing. That being said, I've seen a handful of four year-old kids that were just fine on a snowboard.
The reality, as I explained to my friend, is this: Snowboarding is about having fun on the slopes. It's about enjoying time spent with friends and family. If a child doesn't "get it" right off the bat, and they're obviously struggling, they're probably too young. But as long as they're having fun, I say let them continue. They may progress at a slower pace, but if they continue to enjoy what they're doing, and they're doing it in a safe environment, what's the rush?